Dublin - Whoever wins the "arm wrestle" in the scrum will strike a huge blow in Six Nations champions Ireland's opening match with England in Dublin, said Irish captain Rory Best on Friday.
The 36-year-old grizzled hooker - who will win his 114th cap when he leads the team out at Lansdowne Road - says he expects the English to arrive wanting to intimidate him and the Irish scrum.
Best added the Irish would be ready to give as good as they get against a side they have beaten in the past two meetings, denying England a Grand Slam in 2017 and then clinching one of their own last year at Twickenham.
"I think that is their plan," said Best, who has been captain since Paul O'Connell's retirement after the 2015 World Cup, at a press conference.
"I don't think you get to this level without wanting to get on the front foot up front. That will be part of their game plan no doubt and obviously our game plan too.
"It will be a massive facet of this game who can win that, the arm wrestle up front."
Best, who head coach Joe Schmidt revealed this week in a documentary had considered stepping down from the captaincy last year, said he expected England to deliver some surprises.
"We can gear ourselves up to put ourselves in the best position to win it, but ultimately what England are going to bring at us, we can't control," he said.
"That's always the little thing that nags at you - you can't control what they do."
Ultimately, though, Best says Ireland can counter the surprises up England head coach Eddie Jones's sleeve by focusing on themselves and their own performance.
"For us, it's about making sure that we get consistency in everything that we do," said Best.
"That we're able to go out tomorrow at quarter to five and play the best game of rugby that this group has ever played because, ultimately, that's what it's going to take."
Best has overseen a purple patch for Irish rugby with the Grand Slam last year and two historic wins over world champions New Zealand, but said Jones's remark that "praise makes you weak" would not resonate within the Ireland camp.
"Yeah, I think it's maybe the lack of praise behind closed doors from Joe that protects us," said Best.
"But ultimately, it's a bit like everyone talks about favourites and that doesn't really affect us.
"We're protected from it because we want to keep improving, keep getting better and we're not fixated with soundbites that come from wherever.
"Or tags that are attached to different teams or people, and the coaches here keep pushing us to get better, and we want to get better too."